Pets are now considered an integral part of the family. It’s only right for homeowners associations to welcome pets into their communities. If you’re a pet-friendly association, you likely already know the importance of having rules for homeowners with furry companions. For those who have yet to develop a clear policy, here are pet rules that your HOA should implement.
5 Basic HOA Pet Rules You Should Implement in Your Community
HOAs have discretion over the kind and number of pet rules that they want to implement in their communities. However, there are five basic pet rules that all associations should consider to include in their HOA pet policy.
1. Homeowners Must Register Pets
HOAs will have difficulty implementing pet rules if they don’t even know how many pets there are in their community.
Associations can require new homeowners to register their pets before moving in. Meanwhile, current residents should also submit pet registration forms before acquiring a new pet.
Pet registration enables the HOA to monitor all the domestic animals in their community. They can easily follow up with homeowners who violate the pet rules. It also makes it easier to follow up on pets’ rabies annual vaccinations.
2. Enforce Waste Cleanup
Animal waste is one of the most common problems of pet-friendly associations. If left unattended in common areas, animal waste can actually be toxic and hazardous. The HOA must require all homeowners to pick up after their pets and properly dispose of their waste.
The HOA can provide bags and trash cans throughout the community to encourage rule compliance. You may even decide to levy fines on homeowners who do not clean up after their pets.
3. HOA Dog Barking Rules
It’s normal for dogs to bark and make noise, but not all the time — and not at a level that annoys the neighbors. And so, one of your HOA dog rules could be to have homeowners report any persistent barking problems to the board. Some pets might need to be taken inside at night if they are not able to settle down.
When faced with complaints, the HOA should have a talk with the pet owner. Oftentimes, they are not even aware of the problem. Together, they can come up with ways to remedy the noise problems.
4. Keep Pets Leashed
Your HOA can require pets to be kept on a leash when walked in the neighborhood. Not only is an unleashed pet a danger to itself — with the risk of running into traffic or running away — but it can also be dangerous for those in the community.
Even if the pet isn’t aggressive at all, there are certain circumstances that can trigger them. This could lead to a terrible fight and injuries to both pets and humans.
As a happy medium, the HOA can create a dog park where pets can roam or run freely without having to be leashed. This would be a very appealing amenity to have if you are a pet-friendly community.
5. Establish Liability for Pet Owners
HOAs should also establish liability for pet owners in the community. This is to protect the association in the case of injury, damage, or extreme disturbance caused by pets. Having a clear liability policy also reduces the chances of costly and tedious legal proceedings for all parties involved.
Homeowners should be accountable for the actions of their own pets as well as the pets of guests who stay in their house/unit. They should indemnify the association or other residents for any loss or damage caused by their pets.
Can You Impose HOA Pet Restrictions?
Apart from these basic pet rules, HOAs can also choose to implement additional pet restrictions. They can limit the number of pets per household, have a weight limit for each pet, or only approve select dog breeds. The association can also require pets to be spayed or neutered.
However, when establishing your community’s pet rules, make sure that they are compliant with local, state, and federal laws. For example, even if you are a community that prohibits pets, you still have to follow the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
According to this law, people with disabilities have a right to reasonable accommodations such as having service animals and emotional support animals. Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows people with disabilities to have service animals. But, the ADA makes a distinction between service animals and emotional support animals.
Regardless, the association may want to consider the added stress that will come with having to differentiate between service animals and emotional support animals — as both provide valuable assistance to people with disabilities. When dealing with these cases, the HOA can always ask for certifications or documentation for clarification.
If you are amending your governing documents to include new pet rules, you may also need to think about the grandfather clause. This would exempt current homeowners from the new pet rules. However, if the new pet rules are really important, it’s still best to talk with your community to ensure cooperation and compliance.
Make Homeowners Association Pet Rules Clear Upfront
When a new homeowner joins the community, make sure that they are clear on the HOA pet rules from the beginning. They should be clearly outlined in your governing documents, which should be provided to new homeowners as part of their welcome packet.
HOA Pet Rules Ensure the Safety and Appeal of Your Community
Over 67% of households in the United States have pets and you will see this reflected in your HOA community. Instead of banning pets altogether, it’s better to have clear, established, and easy-to-understand pet rules for your homeowners.
As a board member, make sure that your homeowners understand why such rules are necessary. It’s not to cause them additional burden but rather, to ensure the safety and appeal of your community. As long as everyone cooperates, the association won’t have to deal with pet-related problems in their community.